Demand for Student Government Rights
We, the undersigned Welsh Valley Middle School students, former students, parents and members of the Welsh Valley Community hereby demand changes to the Welsh Valley Student Government Charter and a change in the Student Council Faculty advisors to restore our right to student self-government to benefit the Welsh Valley community.
We demand that the following changes are taken immediately:
- The faculty advisors for the Student Council be removed from their roles in Student Council.
- New faculty advisor/advisors be provided to Student Council who are a member of the social studies department or similarly experienced in government and civics and are prepared to help rewrite out charter to become an effective, student-centered organization.
- That a Constitutional Convention be immediately convened whereby all students actively participate in the creation, debate and ratification of a student Council Charter written by Welsh Valley students and for the benefit of Welsh Valley students.
We demand these changes for the following reasons:
- We Have a Right to Self-Government
Welsh Valley Middle school is comprised of intelligent and competent students who are fully capable of running their own Student Council. Self-government is a founding principle of the United States and many governments and organizations throughout the world. Lower Merion School District, to protect this fundamental right for student governments, wrote Policy #235 which states that:
“Students are free to establish and are encouraged to participate in student government that provides all students a voice in school affairs through a representative system or otherwise.” And…
“Student government is intended to represent the interests of the students.”
HOWEVER, the Welsh Valley Student Council has great difficulty representing the interests of students because it is effectively under the control of faculty advisors who do not allow students to set our own agendas, control our own budget, run our own meetings or organize school related events of interest to the students.
THEREFORE WE DEMAND that control of Student Council be immediately turned over to the Student Council, the representative government elected by their peers, and be placed under the supervision of a new faculty advisor or advisors who have experience in teaching social studies or has similar background and are committed to helping Student Council become an effective, student-centered organization.
- We Have a Right to Develop and Control Our Own Charter
Just as the foundation of the United States government is spelled out in the Constitution of the United States of America, our Student Council is formed based on the rules described in our Student Council Charter. Lower Merion School District protects the rights of students to develop their own Charters. LMSD Policy #235 states that:
“Students have the primary responsibility for the conception and development of the charter for their student government subject to administration and Board approval. The charter must be available to all students and to the administration.”
HOWERVER, the current charter was not conceived or developed by students and is not available to students for their review. Our Student Council advisors keep tight control over our Charter and will not allow students or even the Student Council officers to see the Charter. We were not allowed to have a copy and were not allowed to create a website to share this important document. Further, there is no evidence that the Charter was written by students and we believe that it has been changed without student consent or involvement. It is therefore of questionable validity and we need to fix this problem immediately.
THREFORE WE DEMAND that a Constitutional Convention be initiated immediately where the charter can be reviewed and debated by our students, rewritten as needed, and properly ratified. We will ask our new student council advisor to help with this process.
- We Have a Right to an Excellent Student Government
Welsh Valley is an amazing place! We excel in academics, arts, sports, theater, music and science and have many strong clubs. Welsh Valley should have an amazing, empowered, student government that advances the interests of students, engages the greater community and is the focal point of student activity.
HOWEVER, in comparison to other middle schools, our Student Council under its current faculty advisors and unratified charter, does practically nothing and students are left unheard and uninvolved. Many current Student Council members ran for office with great enthusiasm and ideas, only to end up frustrated and unable to accomplish their goals due to the critical and controlling nature of the advisors who punish initiative and crush good ideas. Here are several examples of this:
- Our student government does do not have a website. Bala Cynwyde Middle School has one and so do most middle school governments. A member of our student government secured a domain name for our Student Council’s website but was told by our advisors that this was not allowed.
- Our student government officers are not allowed to create agendas for student council meetings. The advisors tightly control what is discussed and disallow student initiative.
- Out student government officers are not allowed to run student council meetings and are told exactly what will be covered and what is not allowed.
- Spirit week last year was a big success because it was run by a student who was not part of student council. Many students wore spirit wear and we raised money for charity. This year’s spirt week was lame because the same student tried to plan similar activities through student council but was so discouraged and dejected by the advisors that he had to give up.
- The HSA has indicated that they refuse to work with Student Council on any projects because of their frustration with the advisors. Instead, they work directly with the administration and other student groups directly. The HSA is a tremendous resource that student council advisors have chased off.
- Other schools have dances and social events multiple times per year. We do not because our advisors are against them.
- Other schools raise money for charities and are engaged in their community. Our student council advisors imposed a charity on student government which students did not have any interest in and therefore very little money was raised and students were not engaged.
- The talent show is run by the student council advisors, but student council members are not allowed to be involved (student council not allowed to coordinate student events).
- Student council elections are run by the student council faculty advisors and not by student council (student council not allowed to participate in their own self-government). Elections lack transparency and fairness. Rules seem arbitrary and unevenly enforced.
- Last year, around 20 students went to their 8th grade party which was organized by the school. This year’s 8th grade party was organized by a 50 student committee who specifically did not seek the help of student council because they were 100% sure that the idea would be shot down by the advisors and weren’t willing to risk this. This student run 8th grade event is expecting at least 250 of the 320 students to attend (students sold nearly $9,000 worth of tickets). This is a prime example of how Welsh Valley students excel at making things happen, but the Student Council, under its current advisors is incapable of serving the students and meeting their needs.
THEREFORE WE DEMAND that student government be turned over to its rightful owners, the Welsh Valley students and that a new advisor be appointed. Welsh Valley can do much better with a student run government. We demand it.